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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch had an awkward moment during his visit to San Francisco on Monday, as the justice found himself honoring a teenager critical of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Gorsuch spoke at the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference about the critical importance of civics education, and working across ideological divides.

“Democracy depends on our ability to learn from and work with those who hold very different convictions than our own. Always remembering that those with whom we disagree still have the best interests of the country at heart,” Gorsuch said.

Olivia Tafs, 15, disagrees with Gorsuch about many things. The teen won the court’s essay contest about Japanese internment, by likening it to profiling of Muslims and the travel ban.

Gorsuch was one of three justices to vote for completely reinstating the ban while the court considered its legality.

“The treatment and perception of Muslims and Middle Eastern individuals after 9/11 have paralleled the perception of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor,” Tafs said.

Tafs received congratulations and the prize money from Gorsuch, who wanted to reinstate the travel ban completely while the court considers the case.

“It was a little awkward. As a Supreme Court justice, you have to expect that people are going to be critical of your decisions, and he doesn’t seem personally affronted,” Tafs said.

In fact, Gorsuch was gracious and he said, revitalized, to see students so engaged.

“Moments like these are really heartening for me,” Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch’s visit came as the Trump administration asked the high court to again weigh in on its ban on travelers from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen following a Hawaii judge’s ruling that reduced the ban’s scope.

With Gorsuch in the audience, “Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller was asked at another panel discussion why the cast felt the need to encourage Vice President-elect Mike Pence to work on behalf of all Americans when he attended the show following the election.

Seller said as a candidate, Trump was hostile to Mexicans and other people represented on the cast, and cast members decided they had to address Pence because of his connection to the president.

Gorsuch appeared unfazed by the discussion of the president who nominated him, lingering in a hotel banquet hall well after the conference ended for the day to talk to some of the new U.S. citizens, as other judges and conference attendees attended a wine and beer reception outside.

Minh Nhat Duong, 30, said he didn’t think Gorsuch’s views on the travel ban necessarily reflected his attitude about immigrants. Duong, who is from Vietnam, was among 20 immigrants sworn in at a naturalization ceremony at the conference. None of the immigrants were from any of the countries on the travel ban.

Gorsuch came to the conference instead of fellow Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, who canceled his trip when his wife fractured her hip in Austria. The 9th Circuit — the nation’s largest federal court circuit — includes the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and district and bankruptcy courts in California and eight other western states.

Judges in the circuit have blocked both of Trump’s travel bans and halted his attempt to strip funding from so-called sanctuary cities, and the four-day conference is not shying away from topics that have stoked the president’s ire, including fake news and meddling in the U.S. election.

Gorsuch joined Justice Samuel Alito in a dissent written by Justice Clarence Thomas in June that said the ban, which also blocks refugees, should be completely reinstated pending arguments before the high court scheduled for October.

The dissent argued the administration had made a “strong showing” that it was likely to succeed in overturning court orders blocking the ban. The administration has argued the ban is needed for national security. Lower court judges have cited Trump’s comments on the campaign trail as evidence that it was motivated by anti-Muslim bias.

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